Saturday, November 24, 2018

Top 10 Garden Books of 2018

Here is a list of the best gardening books that came out in 2018 as reviewed in Washington Gardener Magazine. These 10 selections are in no particular order. 

Buy a few of these for yourself and for the plant geeks, garden lovers, and horticultural nerds in your life! (Note that if you click on the links, it takes you to the book's Amazon page and we get a few pennies if you order it from there.)

By Julie Thompson-Adolf
Our reviewer Ashley O’Connor said, "This is a great beginner’s guide, full of visual guides and informational blurbs to have anyone gardening like a master. Thompson-Adolf covers a lot of ground in this book, telling readers everything from biological breakdown of a seed to planning your garden. The book’s photographs and layout are beautiful, full of colorful dotted borders, modern outlined plant illustrations, and thoughtful typography. But make no mistake; the author doesn’t glamorize gardening to her readers. It’s a dirty, disordered labor of love, but, when done right, can be a fulfilling and delicious venture."
By Lisa Eldred Steinkopf
Our reviewer Andrea F. Siegel said, "This book does more than try to rescue us from being bad or ignorant plant parents who overwater, underwater, improperly fertilize, watch creeping things suck the life out of leaves, scorch shade-lovers in bright sun, and wring our hands as a small plant overgrows into a jungle. It’s a how-to resource book. The author clearly tells us that we have to meet our houseplants’ needs if they are to thrive. She advises us on how to do just that, so we can reap the health and other benefits of having houseplants. Her book offers guidance for all houseplant lovers, down to the horticulturally challenged or first-timer houseplant owners. The details the author presents in each plant profile—size and growing conditions—provide vital guidance. She advises readers to understand a plant’s complete profile to help create successful matches between us and our indoor plants. She’s encouraging all of us to include houseplants in our homes—to enhance not only our d├ęcor, but in our lives."
By Dr. Qing Li
Our reviewer Racquel Royer said, "This book about forest bathing or “Shinrin-Yoku” explains the benefits of forest bathing, our human connection to trees—specifically in Japanese culture, and a look into the science behind it all. Overall, this book was a great read and the layout made it easy to take in small chunks at a time. I’ve always understood the profound power of nature, but this book gave an engaging cultural perspective on the importance of nature and scientific proof of how it can better your life. There is not too much talk about gardening, but there are many reminders of why nature is divine, and how we can be mindful of that to improve our health and the future."
By Mark Highland
Our reviewer Erica H. Smith said, "Highland’s book is a good overview of the principles and practices of this complicated system, covering everything from the all-important soil preparation to dealing with pests and diseases naturally. Unlike many other organic gardening texts, it doesn’t remain inside the vegetable garden fence, but also strolls across the lawn and down the landscape paths, although edible plants still dominate the discussion. I’d recommend this book for experienced gardeners who want to take up organic gardening or improve their techniques.  This book is refreshingly up-to-date on scientific information. I cheered at the mention of how adding gravel to the bottom of containers doesn’t improve drainage and, in fact, creates a perched water table that stops the soil from draining properly. There are many other examples that show how closely Highland is following horticultural findings. The sections covering soil composition and conservation, keeping the garden watered, and interacting with both pest and beneficial insects are all terrific. The book also covers plant propagation, garden planning, lawn maintenance, and many other topics."
By Lorraine Ballato

Our reviewer Andrea F. Siegel said, "What with the ongoing development of new hydrangea cultivars—smaller shrubs, reblooming plants, hardier plants, showier blooms, and foliage—these days, there’s a lot more to know about them. Among the hydrangea books out recently is this one by horticulturist/garden writer/instructor Lorraine Ballato. Hers is a highly organized 13-chapter book to help you make sense of the increasing choices and understand what the plants need to thrive. The book’s easygoing style makes all the material understandable. The nearly 150 color photos are helpful because they show hydrangeas up close, as well as in varied settings. A lot of explanation is devoted to pruning. Whether your plant blooms on old wood, new wood, or both plays a large role in what and when to prune to have flowers at all. That’s one good reason to understand as much as possible about the characteristics of your particular hydrangea."

6. Vegetables Love Flowers: Companion Planting for Beauty and Bounty

By Lisa Mason Ziegler

Our reviewer Jamie Moore said, "Lisa Mason Ziegler had minimal gardening experience when she got married and took over growing vegetables on the family homestead. This book shares the story of her gardening journey and presents her answer to the question of 'What business do pretty flowers have in a vegetable garden?' Flowers in a vegetable garden are both ornamental and functional.  Ziegler calls flowers 'the best dose of medicine' for her garden. The body of the book provides practical information about growing cut flowers, from seed sowing to harvesting advice. This book is well-written, includes effective illustrations, and contains a lot of practical advice. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in building a healthy garden ecosystem full of life and beauty."

7. Container Gardening Complete: Creative Projects for Growing Vegetables and Flowers In Small Spaces 

By Jessica Walliser

Our reviewer Teri Speight said, "This is not your basic how-to book. The author strives to demonstrate not just techniques, but multiple planter options as well—from building a cedar planter to creating hypertufa containers. Walliser points out that one of the main keys to successful containers is using the proper light, fluffy, and blended mixture of ingredients. Providing multiple recipes for creating your own special container soil blend is a plus. Most gardeners will want to know the content of the soil that we are growing our plants in. With the many reference lists, plant recommendations, and tips, Walliser has written a resource-filled and informative book. I thoroughly enjoyed this book because it empowers any gardener to consider creatively growing in a container or two."

By Shawna Coronado

Our reviewer Erica H. Smith said, "If you’re looking for a whimsical, colorful book full of inspiration to make your garden more interesting and successful, check out this new volume from 'lifestyle advocate' Shawna Coronado. Throughout the book, she tries hard to follow current scientific guidelines, along with finding ways to make gardening easier, more fun, and completely organic and eco-friendly. Coronado defines hacking as 'the concept of breaking traditional rules to discover a creative way to accomplish something—a clever trick that saves cash for the thrifty or solves a problem elegantly.' Even if the title is just trendy marketing, beginning and experienced gardeners can find new and/or useful ideas here about both edible and ornamental gardening. How do you want to improve your garden this year? This is a great book to browse through for some ideas."

By Kerry Ann Mendez

Our reviewer Allison O’Reilly said, "This is a short, but sweet, guide to creating a beautiful outdoor space with as little cash as possible. Mendez uses dynamic formatting and colorful, eye-catching pictures that make her writing easy to follow and informative. Mendez explains how to wisely navigate garden centers and nurseries, mail order companies, and other small plant sellers like farmers’ markets and garden shows. She dives into how smart design choices in your garden can provide ease on the wallet, and how to make container gardening a frugal process. The bulk of this book is valuable advice about saving money while keeping up your gardening hobby. It is full of useful information about a variety of topics—all curated into one place, written out plainly and in strong detail. This book offers great takeaways for gardeners of all skill levels and passions."

10. Essential Native Trees and Shrubs

By Ginger Woolridge and Tony Dove

Our reviewer Jim Dronenburg said, "I admit at the start to a prejudice in favor of this book because the authors are local, which means that the 'personal experience' component of this book is local. Each plant has a short description of the plant and its major uses. Some, not all, cultivars are listed (holly has, at a guess, hundreds; this book lists a dozen). Nevertheless, the selections are carefully chosen for a good spread of size, berry color, and attributes. The book points out that hollies are for the most part dioecious (that is, they are male or female) and lists a good pollinating male. (Other dioecious plants in the book are also identified in their sections.  There is one caveat, which the book itself makes; a native will not prosper where people have altered conditions grimly from what they should be. Research the plant, and if your conditions fit what it wants, go for it.  Otherwise, don’t plant something until you can suit it. Overall, this is a very good book to have, a good read. It belongs in your collection."

Gifts for Gardeners - Gardening Gift Ideas - Cool Gardening Gifts

Do you have a gardener on your gift list for the holiday season? Maybe a winter birthday or wedding is coming up and you are looking for that perfect gardening gift?

I thought I'd again share the garden products I use almost every day. These are the tried-and-true work tools that make my garden grow, save my back from breaking, and generally make life a little easier.

BTW, they are linked to Amazon, so if you click on them and order any, I get a couple pennies added to my account. My full Amazon storefront is at:

1. Dramm 12446 2-Liter Injection Molded Plastic Watering Can, Berry 

2. 4-Port Deluxe Rain Barrel


3. Foxgloves - Medium, Moss

4. Sloggers Garden Clog

5. Scala Wide Brim Garden Hat

6. Garden Kneeling Pad

7. Corona AG4930SS Long Straight Snip, Stainless Steel

8. CobraHead Weeder and Cultivator

9. O'Keeffe's Working Hands Hand Cream, 3.4 oz., Jar

10. Alaska Fish Fertilizer 5-1-1 Concentrate 1 Quart

And, if you like this list, you may enjoy these gift lists as well:

Gardening Christmas Gifts

~ Gift Ideas for Garden Cats

Gifts for Gardeners in Winter

~ Top 10 Garden Books of 2018

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Win Passes to the Garden of Lights at Brookside Gardens in the November 2018 Washington Gardener Reader Contest

For our November 2018 Washington Gardener Reader Contest, Washington Gardener Magazine is giving away several passes to the Garden of Lights at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, MD. Each pass admits a car-load-full of visitors and then you walk around the garden light displays. (Prize value is $30.)
    Step into a magical winter wonderland illuminated with more than 1 million dazzling, colorful lights shaped into hand-crafted, original art forms of flowers, animals, and other natural elements. Stroll from garden to garden enjoying twinkling tree forms, sparkling fountains, and whimsical winter scenes. The night wouldn’t be complete without a visit inside the conservatory to enjoy watching G-scale model trains wind through a seasonal landscape. Afterward, warm up in the Visitors Center while you sip hot cocoa and listen to one of the nightly musical performances.
   The Garden of Lights runs through January 1, 2019 (except November 19–22 and December 24–25).
Find out more at:
   To enter to win a pass that admits one car-load of guests to the Garden of Lights, send an email to by 5pm on Friday, November 30, with “Lights Show” in the subject line. In the body of the email, tell us your new year’s resolution for your garden. Please also include your full name and mailing address. The pass winners will be announced and notified by December 1.

Congratulations to our pass winners!

- Art Narro, Woodbridge, VA

- Anne Hardman, Silver Spring, MD

- Rene' Johnson, Rockville, MD

- Joletta Humpert, Silver Spring, MD

- Jeff Malakoff, Arlington VA

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Adaptive Gardening and much more in the November 2018 issue of Washington Gardener Magazine

The November 2018 issue of Washington Gardener Magazine is out.

You can also view it online at:

 Inside this issue:
·         Adaptive Gardening: Gardening for a Lifetime
·         All About Amaryllis
·         Pickled Paperwhites
·         Tips for Growing Chrysanthemum
·         Turnip Tales
·         Botanical Artist Marcella Kriebel
·         When Is It Too Late to Plant?
·         Spotted Lanternfly Facts
·         3 New English Roses
·         Native Honeysuckle: A Fine Vine
·         How Porous Pavement Helps Capture and Clean Water
·         And much more….

Note that any submissions, event listings, and advertisements for the December 2018 issue are due by December 1.

  Subscribe to Washington Gardener Magazine today to have the monthly publication sent to your inbox as a PDF several days before it is available online. You can use the PayPal (credit card) online order form here:

Friday, November 09, 2018

Fenton Friday: Freeze Coming = Final Post of the Season

With a real freeze (not frost) predicted for this weekend, this will be my last Fenton Friday post of the growing season. At the point, there is not much left in the garden to do. I brought in some helpers from the Silver Spring Time Bank (pictured at left) last Sunday and we cleared out most of the plot. We then spread a thick layer of straw over everything.

What is left wintering over in the plot:

The Asparagus and Strawberry beds are mulched and dormant.

The Garlic shoots are already up. I was given more garlic varieties to trial this week and will get those in asap as well.

The Beets and Swiss Chard are looking good and we should be able to harvest them in a few weeks.

I also have two Thornless Blackberry bushes and a Blueberry bush still in pots, that I think I'd like to move to he plot as my home garden is too shady for them. We'll see if I get time to do that before the ground freezes.

What is growing in your edible garden this week?

About Fenton Friday: Every Friday during the growing season, I'll be giving you an update on my community garden plot at the Fenton Street Community Garden just across the street from my house. I'm plot #16. It is a 10 ft x 20 ft space and this is our 7th year in the garden. (It opened in May 2011.) See past posts about our edible garden by putting "Fenton" into the Search box above.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Fenton Friday: Surprise Carrots

While we were cleaning out one of the garden plot beds this week, I gave a tug on some leafy foliage and ended up with a big handful of carrots! These were the ones I planted early last spring and had totally given up on. The row was kept shaded and hidden when the cosmos, zinnias, and celosia came up and the mild, wet summer helped also. I dug the rest of the row and cleaned them off. They are sweet and not woody or tough in the least. This just proves what I keep telling folks at my cool-season edibles talk--carrots take for-ev-er to germinate and grow.

I think I'll seed in a new row of them this weekend and see if by next spring they are ready.

What is growing in your edible garden this week?

About Fenton Friday: Every Friday during the growing season, I'll be giving you an update on my community garden plot at the Fenton Street Community Garden just across the street from my house. I'm plot #16. It is a 10 ft x 20 ft space and this is our 7th year in the garden. (It opened in May 2011.) See past posts about our edible garden by putting "Fenton" into the Search box above.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

DIY: Stepping Stones

Pavers and stepping stones in your garden are essential for navigating your way around precious plant materials. The decorative aspects are unlimited. Make a path of them, create some as personalized gifts, or use them to mark the burial spot of a beloved pet.

We did these ones (pictured) from a kit, but you can easily gather the supplies and do one from scratch.

This is an easy craft for kids, though it does require close adult supervision as the mixing needs to be precise and the glass mosaic pieces can be sharp.

Caution: Cover your mouth and eyes with protective gear when mixing concrete as the dust can be hazardous if breathed in.

- Bucket to mix in
- Water and measuring cup
- Stir sticks or skewers
- Acrylic Paint (optional)


Step 1- Spread out newspaper and lay out a pattern for your mosaic. You may wish the use the cutters to cut the pieces to the exact shape you desire, but I think it is more fun just to work with what you have as a puzzle.

Step 2 - Coat the sides and bottom of the mold with cooking spray so the stone will easily release afterwards.

Step 3 - Add water to your concrete mix according to package instructions and stir. Once it reaches a pancake-batter consistency, pour it into the mold. Use a stir stick to level it and lightly tap the mold on the table it to get out any air bubbles.

Step 4 - Transfer your mosaic art on to the paver surface. Leave at least an 1/8-inch space between the glass pieces. This is where you made need to adjust things as I always find your pattern "expands" when transferred. Next, decorate with the glass gem pieces as desired.

Step 5: Set aside to cure for a day and then un-mold it. Then let it set for another couple of days to totally dry before setting it outside.

Optional: After it has set for about 30 minutes, you can use one of the stir sticks to scratch in some words or a design into the concrete. After the stepping stones are totally dry, you can paint them or leave them plain. 

TIP: Decorate with found objects from marbles to small toys. Press in a leaf or plant stems to make neat-looking impressions.

This is a monthly blog series on DIY projects for the beginning home gardener. Look for the other installments in this DIY blog series by putting "DIY" in the search box here at

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Gifts for Gardeners ~ Gardening Gifts ~ Cool Gardening Gift Ideas

Today is Amazon Prime Day, so I thought I'd again share the garden products I use almost every day. These are the tried-and-true w...